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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  May 31, 2010 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: good evening. i'm gwen ifill. israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of aid ships bound for the gaza strip, killing at least nine and wounding dozens more. >> warner: and i'm margaret warner. on the newshour tonight, we'll have a report on the deadly pre- dawn raid that has triggered international outrage, and get two views, from a leader of the aid group involved in the clash and from the israeli ambassador to the united states. >> ifill: then, as b.p. turns to
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yet another plan to stop the flow of oil from its blown well, we look at the public response to the spill and its impact, with oil analyst amy jaffe, technology expert paul saffo, and bill nye, the science guy. >> warner: ray suarez has a report on china's smoking epidemic, and why the government has done little to stop it. >> suarez: can the chinese government credibley urge its citizens not to smoke while being behind the growing of the plant and being the country's chief cigarette salesman? >> ifill: and, on this memorial day, we revisit our conversation with author tim o'brien about his book, "the things they carried," soldiers' stories from the vietnam war. that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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>> this is the engine that connects abundant grain from the american heartland to haran's best selling whole wheat, while keeping 60 billion pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere every year. bnsf, the engine that connects us. chevron. this is the power of human energy. the national science foundation. supporting education and research across all fields of science and engineering.
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and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: storms of protest raged around the world today after the israeli raid on ships off gaza. it happened 80 miles off shore. it was in international waters. organizers said they were trying to carry aid through an israeli blockade. the naval barrier went up three years ago after the militant group hamas seized control of gaza. there had been previous attempts to get through-- some successful. but today, violence erupted. we begin with a report from julian manyon of independent television news. >> reporter: it was an operation the israelis had rehearsed. armed israeli commandos repeled from helicopters but
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were confronted by pro palestinian activists wielding sticks, metal bars and knives. and then in circumstances that are not yet clear, the israeli troops opened fire. and the result was a blood bath. >> one person has just been hit in the head by a bullet. she may die if she does not receive medical treatment immediately. >> reporter: on the ships there was chaos. the captain of ñiçó one turkish vessel appealed to his passengers to halt their resistance. >> the main control. ship, please come down and take your seats. come down and take your seats. >> reporter: israel has released pictures of what it says were weapons used to attack the troops. of their naval officers the 8th convoy which set sail from ki prus to halt before nearing gaza. >> you are approaching an area of hostility. it is under a naval blockade. >> reporter: israel admits that the assault on the ships took place in international
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waters. but says it was intended to be a police operation. >> they chose to use violence. they had different kinds of sticks, of metal objects. they took the navy seals and used the entire magazines on these pistols. they wounded our soldiers. >> reporter: the israeli army has now distributed video taken by a drone and captioned to show what it says are examples of activist violence. a soldier is seen being thrown from the upper deck to the lower. the turkish aid ship on which most of the deaths took place has now docked under guard at the israeli port of ashdod. most of the remaining passengers and crew will be deported. their stories have yet to be told. >> ifill: the raid provoked condemnation and protests around the world. in turkey, furious crowds tried to storm the israeli consulate in istanbul. turkey's prime minister accused the israelis of "state
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terrorism." and in london, crowds gathered to protest outside number ten downing street, the prime minister's official residence. later, in new york, the u.n. security council convened an emergency session. >> no state is above the law. israel must be prepared to face the consequences and be held accountable for its crimes. under the conditions, any slim chance that existed regarding peace and stability in the region has suffered a serious setback. >> we are working to ascertain the facts. we expect a credible and transparent investigation and strongly urge the israeli government to investigate the incident fully. >> the soldiers boarding one of the ships were most violently attacked with life-threatening means. live ammunition, knives, clubs, and other types of weapons were used against i.d.f. soldiers. the intentions was clear, were clear: to lynch the israeli soldiers.
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>> ifill: israeli prime minister netanyahu cut short a visit to canada, cancelled a planned visit to the white house, and flew home. now, for a closer look at the action and reaction surrounding the high seas standoff, we turn to voices on each side of the issue. a short time ago, i spoke with adam shapiro, a board member of the free gaza movement. he helped organize this trip, and his wife took part in the convoy. adam shapiro, welcome. how long has this flotilla movement been in the works? >> we've been planning this flotilla since july, 2009 when our last effort to break the israeli blockade on gaza was stopped by israeli forces in the waters and we were detained. upon release, we started organizing this flotilla to make it bigger, to bring in more partners and to attract as many ships as possible. we ended up with six ships on this mission, three cargo ships and three passenger ships. >> ifill: let's be clear. you were on a previous
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flotilla or a previous ship that tried to break this blockade. >> yes. in july 2009 was on the spirit of humanity ship that was... we were stopped just outside of gaza's waters. we were dragged into the israeli port of ashdod and detained for about ten days. >> ifill: have you been able to talk to your wife since last night's events? >> no. the last time i spoke to my wife was just moments before her boat was captureded. since then her and all of the passengers have been held in communicado. even the injured are being held in secret locations in israeli hospitals. we have no access to the injured people. even, unfortunately, the names of the dead have not been released by israel which at this point forces us to ask the question, why is israel keeping the names of the dead a secret? >> ifill: can i ask you a little bit about something you said a moment ago. you said the purpose of this was to break the blockade. i've also heard that you said that this was a humanitarian
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mission? which was its or was it both? >> it's both. i mean unfortunately israel has made humanitarian assistance to gaza a political issue. so israel keeps a list of items that are permitted into gaza and items that are not permitted into gaza. many medicines, many machines that are needed for medical operations and medical procedures are not allowed into gaza. some basic food stuffs are not allowed into gaza to the palestinians so israel has taken a very radical policy through its block aids and made humanitarian assistance a political issue. the blockade itself is, of course, political. so we are challenging the blockade itself. in doing so, we're trying to deliver the much of needed humanitarian and reconstruction assistance that gaza needs. >> ifill: as you know, mr. shapiro, israel says there is no humanitarian crisis in gaza. what's your response to that? >> i don't need to response to that. the world health organization and the united nations and countless other organizations that are keeping track of
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statistics, keeping track of health records of the palestinians in gaza are repeatedly virtually every week coming out with a new report, a new document, new evidence that is showing that the palestinians in gaza are suffering a major humanitarian crisis and that, you know, all health indicators are deteriorating among the people in gaza. furthermore it is a simple question also of freedomment ... freedom. even if we take israel's word that gaza is not a humanitarian crisis and ignore the evidence presented by these health organizations, then we still have the basic fundamental question of the freedom of the people of the gaza to come and go, to pursue education and work opportunities wherever they can in the world. gaza is an open-air prison. this is what it was called by members of the u.n. human rights commission, richard falk and desmond tutu among others. this is part of the problem as well. >> ifill: about last night's incident there are two basic disagreements about what
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happened. one is whether the people on board the ship were armed and whether that was part of your plan in breaking this blockade to provoke violence. and the other is whether the ship was an enter... was in international waters. >> on your lalter point there is no doubt. we have released all information about the location of the boat according to the spot beacons. i have not actually heard the israelis' disputes that the boat was in international waters. i think this issue is dwrond dispute. this boats were at least, at least 50 miles off the coast of gaza. so i don't really believe that that is at issue. certainly all the countries around the world that are taking exception are taking exception to the part that israel carried out this attack in international waters. >> ifill: on the former point about whether you were armed and whether there was violence that was provoked here. >> the israelis, according to the initial reports that were being fed on our live stream coming off the boat that was attacked, including by international media outlets,
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were reporting that israeli soldiers descended on to the boat firing at the passengers as they were descending. and it is only after our passengers were injured and, in fact, one was killed that some of the passengers took up weapons of iron bars and whatnot and try to defend themselves. i personally don't agree with the use of any kind of violence. we are a nonviolent movement. we have tried to work in such a way. however, under those circumstances where live ammunition is being used in random firing in a very limited, small area , i can understand where people would want to try to defend themselvess in some way. i think we're calling for an open, independent investigation into all the events that transpired on that boat. >> ifill: i just want to be clear. you're saying there was no intention, no preparation to provoke or to respond with violence heading into this? >> none whatsoever.
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it is utterly absurd to think that we could face down a military with the strength and the kind of technology and weapons that israel possesses to even think for a second that we could use violence in any way that would be to our advantage. it's utterly absurd. israel has always tried to portray its victims, whether they be internationals like rachael curry or tom , or palestinians to present the victims as the perpetrators. i think we're seeing the response of the world today. france, the president of france, the foreign minister of france, other countries have come out and condemned this proportion. use of force by israel. >> ifill: adam shapiro of the free gaza movement, thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you very much. >> ifill: after that interview i >> ifill: after that interview, i talked with michael oren, the israeli ambassador to the united states. israel has come in for harsh criticism today from people who are normally allies and
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some people who maybe aren't. we heard what the prime minister of turkey said. he called this a war crime. foreign secretary of the u.k. called for greater restraint on the part of israel. the president of france said the use of force was disproportionate to what was going on. what is your response to all that? >> first, let me say, gwen, that the state of israel is saddened by all the casualtys in this sorry affair including the israeli casualties. we have several soldiers who have been wounded two of them quite seriously. as for the use of force, our soldiers no choice but to defend themselves. they landed on these ships armed with paint guns and had no spengs of using the side arms which they carried only for personal defense, only if they were in a situation where their lives were threatened. you can see on a you-tube clip which is now available the minute they landed on the ship they were beaten with iron rods. they were fired at with firearms, with knives. one of the soldiers was toppled from the top of the ship to the deck below and
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sustained severe head injuries. >> ifill: they did not fire first? >> they did not fire first. >> ifill: what exactly do you think that this humanitarian flotilla was attempting? just to break the blockade, to provoke or to do what has happened in the past which is get supplies to gaza? >> certainly to provoke. not to provide humanitarian aid. over the past several days israel has been engaged in intense diplomacy to try to convince the participants in the flotilla to transfer the humanitarian aid in their cargo holds to israel. israel vowed to transfer that aid to gaza. about 100 trucks of humanitarian aid, food and medicine go into gaza every day. there's no shortage of food in gaza, no shortage of immediate is inin gaza. this would have been additional aid. we would have been happy to transfer it on. the purpose was not to bring humanitarian aid to gaza. it was to make a political statement and to provoke israel into blockading the flotilla from arriving to gaza.
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if they had wanted really to aid the people of gaza, they would have given us the humanitarian aid. >> ifill: was the ship in international waters? >> it was. >> ifill: was that breaking the law for the israeli military to board the ship in international waters? so many people of the u.n. were saying that today. >> it is not. under international law when there's a case of a military blockade against a hostile entity, and we are talking about a hostile entity. this is hamas. in gaza, a country under article 51 of the united nations charter, the right to self-defense has a right to defend itself self. by the same articles of war the united states blockaded germany during world war ii in the open seas. israel was well within its international rights. >> ifill: turkey has had a particularly unhappy about this because so many people on the ship that boarded were turkish citizens. do you think your relationship with turkey has been irrevocably damaged? >> i don't think it's damaged. we have a way to go to improve.... >> they used the term war crime.
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>> a severe term and does not make us happy. this was not a war crime. the war crime was committed by the hamas, the gaza regime. it overthrough the legitimate palestinian government of gaza. it lobbed 7 ,000 rockets over the last several years and israel reserves the right to defend itself as any country would. there is no absolute blockade of gaza. we reserve the right to prevent certain materials from getting in such as construction materials which hamas would use to build bunkers and not hospitals. >> ifill: do we know the identity of the dead or wounded? >> they will not.... >> ifill: they? >> the participants on the flow philadelphia. >> ifill: aren't they in israeli hospitals some. >> the wounded are in israeli hospitals but won't identify themselves. >> ifill: they're not saying who they are. >> they're not saying who they are. >> nor are they saying who the other casualties are. >> ifill: overall, has this plan to isolate hamas by putting this blockade in place
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for the last three years has it worked especially given the events overnight looking at it through that lens? >> i think hamas is officially less popular among the population of gaza today than it was three years ago. people of gaza look across at what's happening in the west bank where there's an annual growth rate of between 11 and 8%. very, very high growth rate where there are tens of thousands of new jobs. where there are talks going on between the israeli government and the palestinian authority, where the israeli government army has withdrawn from palestinian cities and palestinian security forces have deployed. they look at everything that's happening on the west bank. none of that is happening in gaza. they conclude the only reason that's not happening is because of the regime that is ruling gaza. the minute that regime either disappears or ceases its war to destroy the state of israel, that is its expressed intention, it's actually in the covenant of hamas, then there's no need for a blockade. there's no reason for any restrictions whatsoever. there will be an open border. >> ifill: do events like what
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happened last night derail the peace process overall? i didn't hear anyone at the u.n. security council come out and speak on your behalf other than the israeli ambassador. >> i think that there will be allies defending our right to defend ourselves. keep in mind the policy that israel has on gaza is not israel's alone. it's also egypt. the obama administration also upholds our right to defend ourselves against the hamas regime. has defended our right to have that blockade in the sea. so we're not standing alone. there is understanding that israel faces some of the same foes that the united states faces, that the west faces. there are some difficult choices here. we don't always look good on television when we make these choices but we have to make these choices if we're to survive as a nation. >> ifill: there is a lot of talk today of a thorough, complete investigation of this incident. is this something that israel is willing to undertake? and make public? >> after every major operation israel investigates. we're constantly in the process of investigating
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ourselves and the results of that investigation will be made public, yes. >> ifill: including whatever full videos that we see of the event. there are many different versions of that. >> many of them are available online now. they're online at our website at the idf website. you'll see how these soldiers come down, do not shoot and they are immediately set upon with iron bars. this one soldier who was thrown over the side you see that very, very clearly in the video. >> ifill: we'll be talking about this some more, i'm sure. ambassador michael oren, thank you very much. >> warner: still to come on the newshour, now what on the oil spill; the public and the eco- disaster; china's smoking problem; and a vietnam war story. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. >> sreenivasan: this was memorial day, and millions of americans joined in tributes to fallen troops. president obama paid his respects at abraham lincoln national cemetery outside chicago, but severe weather forced him to cancel his scheduled remarks.
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outside washington, vice president biden took part in the wreath-laying at arlington national cemetery. nly obligation the government has that is truly sacred , our sacred obligation to provide these warriors with everything they need to complete their mission and everything they need-- and i might add deserve-- when they come home. >> sreenivasan: american troops in iraq and afghanistan also paused to remember fallen colleagues. the ceremonies included this service at bagram air field in afghanistan, led by general stanley mcchrystal, the overall u.s. commander. officials also unveiled a steel beam from the world trade center in new york. in central america, tropical storm agatha, the first of the pacific hurricane season, struck on saturday, claiming at least 130 lives. more than 94,000 people were evacuated in guatemala. rescue workers rushed to look for the missing after heavy rain caused landslides. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to margaret. >> warner: next, the latest on the struggle to stop the oil spill in the gulf.
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remotely operated robotic vehicles began bp's latest attempt to cope with the gush era mile down on the sea floor. whiring blades sliced away at de brees on the well head today. once that is finished the machines will saw through the leaking 21-inch diameter riser pipe where it meets the damaged blow-out. the riser lies managinged and bent like a straw. once that portion is sawed off a tight-fitting containment device will be lowered over the pipe. the lower machine riser, as it's called, would then sign oil to ships above. how much oil is unclear. bp's ceo tony hayward. >> it's a production system that if it's successful will produce the majority of the oil to the surface. >> warner: estimates are the crippled well is spewing up to 800,000 gallons of oil every day. experts in and out of government warn the new lower machine riser procedure could
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actually increase the flow 20% until the containment apparatus is is in place. bp turned to the new stop gap plan after its top-kill effort to plug the well with mud and cement was judged a failure over the weekend. >> after three full days of attempting top-kill, we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well. >> warner: that news left white house energy and climate advisor and former epa chief carol browner to issue this sobering forecast on sunday. >> i think what the american people need to know that it is possible we will have oil leaking from this well until august when the relief wells will be finished. >> warner: after 42 days, this is all already the worst spill in u.s. history. some estimates are that more than 40 million gallons have spewed into the gulf. estimates vary widely on how much more oil would leak over the next two-plus months. government scientists say huge amounts of the oil are spreading below the surface in giant plumes.
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but bp's hayward disputed that idea on sunday. >> there's no evidence of ... oil has a specific gravity that's about half that of water. >> right. >> it's very difficult for oil to stay in the column. it wants to go to the surface. >> right. >> because of the difference in specific grafity. >> warner: either way the prospect of no early end to the spill has many in louisiana and elsewhere worried for their livelihoods. >> we can't make a living. there's no money coming in right now. we can't catch fish. you can't sell shrimp. everybody's... it's the trickle-down effect. it's sad. >> warner: today the national oceanic and atmospheric administration warned that shifting winds will spread the oil eastward toward mississippi, alabama, and florida. moreover, the atlantic hurricane season begins tomorrow. week after week, as the oil spews out of the earth, and
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plans for stopping it keep coming up short, more than 80% of americans have been telling the pew research center that they're following events in the gulf closely. we get three perspectives now on what's behind the extraordinary public response to the spill. bill nye is an author, and science educator. trained as a mechanical engineer, he's the former host of the pbs program, "bill nye, the science guy." amy jaffe is a senior energy advisor at the james baker institute at rice university. and paul saffo is a writer and technology forecaster in silicon valley. he's also a visiting scholar at stanford university. welcome to you all. paul, beginning with you. the public's fascination with this story, what is driving it? is this like other disasters or is there something more at work here? >> i think this is a new chapter. this is one of those moments that would have seemed pure science fiction ten years ago. watching in realtime this spreading horror deep in the ocean below the level anybody
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can reach. it's part titanic, the movie, and part 1950s the blob. it's just strangely compelling. i know all sorts of people who just can't stopwatching. >> warner: bill nye, how do you see it? do you find this a turning moment? >> well, i hope it's a turning moment. i hope it's a moment that changes the world. in that we would now acknowledge how much time, effort and energy we put into getting oil. but i think what really focused it was two things. the exxon valdez which people still make fun of or refer to. and then katrina. this happened in the same region, almost to the nautical mile as katrina. so the same people are going through a new suffering. this is the signed of... this is the kind of suffering that could happen to so many of us. now there's thousands... there's almost a million oil wells around the world.
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of there's a few thousand oil rigs. this is the kind of disaster that could happen almost anywhere . >> warner: amy jaffe, how does it look to you in houston? what do you think this event is tapping into in the american public? >> well, you know, we in the american public are a big believer that there's a science and technology solution to everything. it was really amazing that the industry we were sort of running out of oil on shore and the industry was able to go out to the depths of the earth under the sea and keep us driving around in our cars. so to sit here night after night and watch all these scientists unable to close a simple pipeline, even though it's a very complex engineering problem, as a lay person when you sit here and watch the oil just spewing out of this pipeline, it is. it's just this horror movie like we cannot believe that there isn't a technology to close this pipeline. we as americans believe there's a technological solution to everything.
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and the idea that we're going to have to wait until august for the technological solution, i think it's just got people just gripped in terror. and it gets to our fundamental core. >> warner: paul, do you agree that it's shaking our faith in technology and in americans' ability? i mean, part of our whole ethos is if there's a problem, americans can fix it. >> we've had an uneasy accommodation with our faith in technology for the last ten years. we were shattered first with the popping of the dot-com bubble and the whole climate debate circles around us right now. in fact, you see two camps in the climate debate. there are those who say we need to turn the clock back because we can't solve it and the engineers who say we need to accelerate because we can solve this with heroic engineering. this oil well has done more to discredit heroic engineering than anything that has happened in the last ten years
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years. >> warner: as mr. science here, bill nye, do you think... excuse me, at least technology? if not our own sort of scientific prowess? >> everybody, look. technology doesn't come from outer space. humans made this thing. now, you know, the old song don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys. no, they should grow up to be engineers. what happened here was engineers are working the problem. they've done the same thing the same way for over a century. there are back-up systems but the back-up systems were not inspected. the back-up systems were not regulated. this problem is in fact technologically solvable. how are we going to solve it? with these relief wells. the problem is that engineers are humans. mistakes are made. the problem might be that we rely on heavily on this. people referred to the last ten years.
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for me, my heart started to break as an engineer from the united states around the ford pinto. maybe in the late '70s when the people were wearing leisure suits and making terrible vehicles. and then the columbia and the challenger spate shuttle both exploded. this problem of not having good engineering in the united states anyway goes way back. this underwater thing, this gizmo that's called the lower marine recovery... hold on. lmrp. now you've got me doing it. the problem with this thing is it's going to have to be refitted on top of a gushing oil well. this is the way it's done on land all the time. when you get a gusher, you put a new valve on it, a new christmas tree. then you close it down. underwater it's a huge problem. i hope we can keep it in the news so that everybody realizes just how much we rely on this technology. how much we rely on
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engineering and when things go wrong it's potentially trouble shm. one more thing. we have tens of thousands of coal-fired power plants around the world. we have thousands and thousands of oil and gasp fired power plants. we have about 400, 434 nuclear power plants. climate change is a huge problem. if we try to address our energy needs with nuclear power and we get into the tens of thousands of nuclear power plants, we will have remarkable problems. astonishing problems. i hope this keeps everybody focused. >> warner: let me get this refocused. amy jaffe, as someone who has been working in the energy fold ... field for a couple of decades at least, has this affected your own attitude, your own confidence in our technological abilities? >> you know, i have to tell you i have found it sort of a shocking and personally depressing experience because i watched the industry in the
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late '80s and early '90s really crack this puzzle of how to get oil from the ocean. in the gulf of mexico anyway, we've been very successful at doing it without a major accident. so when i learned after this accident that the industry actually had no blow-out technology, in other words, they didn't have the technological solution to address a blow-out, i was shocked! even myself who has been watching the industry and writing about industry for 30 years, i just couldn't believe that people would go out there and drill these wells and they didn't have a back-up plan. i mean, i understand they had good prevention systems. but they didn't have a back-up plan. now we're all watching in horror over the fact that there is no back-up plan. it does raise this question... i like what our other guests are saying. i work at a university known for its math and science departments and its engineering. we find it very depressing that a lot of young people who are good in mathematics in this country have chosen to
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use that to develop financial derivatives that have actually hurt our economy. we see it here in houston with all the people who rushed to work for enron instead of going into concrete science that could be used today to shut this pipeline. if we had more american children sticking with math and science and going to engineering, there might just be some young bright person out there who could come up with an idea of how to do this in a way that isn't the way we did it on land 50 years ago or 100 years ago. we really need more science capability in this country. >> warner: now we keep talking about how we're watching this. of course one way we're watching this on the internet. paul, what has been the role of the web in all of this? in creating a kind of community that's tuned in to this all day every day or at least part of the day? >> tv brought the world into our living rooms. the internet has done something that's vastly more
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intimate. it brings it to our desks and to hand held devices. so i think people feel an emotional connection with this that is much, much, much deeper than television. and the fact that it's real-time and it's unedited and that at any moment something completely surprising could happen just has people captivated. you know, the only thing that would become more captivating is we've got a dozen or so robots, telerobot r.o.v.s down there running around. if one of those got tangled in some cable or stuck in the christmas tree blow-out preventer and the name of that robot got out, then you would have a drama of the first order. >> warner: and bill nye, the other thing that's happening online on our website and elsewhere are just thousands, tens of thousands of suggestions about what can be done to stop this. what does that tap into? do you think people really think that bp will turn around
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and adopt their solution ? >> maybe. i think it would be a good idea to have a lot of ideas. it shows you also sort of how to say a level of scientific illiteracy. by that i mean to understand the pressures involved. when someone say it's 6800 psi, 400 atmospheres, it's just way beyond our ordinary experience. when it's 5,000 feet down and the only way to get to it is with remotely operated submersible vehicles it's way beyond your ordinary experience. on the other hand, every inventor started out thinking about problems like this. imagining unsolvable problems. having a lot of ideas is probably a good thing. isn't it better than suppressing people's ideas? that would be horrible. by the way, i will say it's pretty good that bp, british petroleum, has kept those
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engineers and remotely operated vehicle operators isolated. can you imagine, you're in there and you have very good minds who have been working undersea for decades and then all these ideas are coming at you and you're trying to drive this submarine? i mean that nothing has gone wrong with the submarines is pretty good. i think we're finally there in that somebody has acknowledged they really have to cut the thing off, put something new on top of it. i will say that's been most of the suggestions that come to my website. i've gotten several thousand. it's just got to cut it off, get a clean surface and start over. we'll see if we can get this done. if it stops in the next few months it will be all is well that ends well. oil's we will that underwe will. >> warner: thank you all. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you very much.
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>> ifill: next, the first of three reports about china from our global health unit. this is world no tobacco day, when anti-tobacco advocates around the world hope to draw attention to the health risks of smoking. as ray suarez reports, they have their work cut out for them in china. >> suarez: no nation on earth has more smokers than china. 350 million people here light up regularly. meaning china has more smokers than the united states has people. while warnings of dire health risks have pushed smoking rates down across the globe, tobacco consumption in china has quadrupled since the 1970s. how is business? are you telling more of expensive brands? >> the living standard in china has improved. it is easier to sell cigarettes. even sell expensive cigarettes. this one is a common gift.
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>> suarez: smoking in china is to popular that cigarettes are often the gift of choice for special occasions. >> this one is for a wedding. red color. double happiness. this is also for a wedding. it too is double happiness. >> suarez: china doesn't just have the most smokers. it also has become both the largest producer and manufacturer of tobacco in the world. the industry here is twice the size of international tobacco giant philip morris. susan lawrence, an anti-smoking advocate working in china, says the home grown product is marketed very well. >> the chinese cigarettes dominate. the tobacco industry has been very successful at trying to make them part of chinese culture. a chinese cigarette promotes a lot of iconic symbols, the
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great wall, the tianamen gate. dragons, pandas and that beautifully signed packs. they're beautiful things to give as gifts. >> suarez: and this huge and successful industry is owned and operated by just one organization: the chinese government. lawrence heads the chinese wing of the campaign for tobacco-free kids an initiative that supports local efforts to reduce tobacco use. given the country's smoking statistics, the initiative faces an uphill battle. about 60% of chinese males smoke. >> a lot of men start smoking in the workplace because they get offered cigarettes by their bosses or by other colleagues. it somehow seems very rude not to accept. so in china you don't see so much people smoking a cigarette by themselves. it's very much a social thing. you offer the cigarettes around to everybody. and then you take one yourself.
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when when your boss offers you, a young worker, a cigarette you can't say no. >> i quit smoking three times. the last time i quit for one year. >> suarez: do you want to stop again? >> i really want to quit. but i've been smoking for 30 years. and it's so difficult to quit. >> suarez: one million d&es a year in china are now attributed to smoking-related illnesses. cigarette use is even prevalent among medical professionals. one out of three are still smoking. this urologist recently quit after 20 years as a smoker. yang says health concerns about smoking have been woefully underplayed in china. >> even as a doctor i'm still a little bit confused about how bad is smoking. >> suarez: and one year after quitting, this doctor still
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has an occasional smoke. >> it is very difficult to tell your friends or refuse your friends to smoking. sometimes. >> suarez: the government has taken steps toward tobacco control. advertisements depicting diseased lungs have appeared on television. and the government has signed an international public health treaty calling for higher taxes on tobacco, no smoking in public places and a ban on tobacco advertisements. but implementing those pledges, says lawrence, has been slow. >> the tobacco monopoly is not at all keen on having higher taxes. the tobacco monopoly is very politically powerful. it's a governmenting see ... it's a government agency and a corporation. they're one in the same. they share the same personnel. and so they ... the industry is essentially represented by a government agency which has a say in most big decisions that
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get made about tobacco. >> suarez: even china's own director of the national office of tobacco control speaks frankly about the obstacles she faces within her government. >> tobacco control in china is very complicated. our health ministry is very weak and the budget for tobacco control is not enough. >> suarez: as deputy director, dr. young says it's time for the government to get out of the tobacco business. >> if china wants to build a modern economy we need to break the monopoly system. there are only a few monopolies left in chooin a and tobacco is one. when it's a monopoly, the government has its own interests so they're not willing to do tobacco control. >> china's tobacco country, farmers are in this season's early growing stages after
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months of drought. following a local lottery, farmers here are given a parcel of land on which to grow tobacco. crops are then sold at fixed government prices. this person is 50 years old. on this day, she and her son-in-law work that parcel. caring for the fragile new tobacco plants. is it very hard work? >> yes, a lot of hard work. we need to water each plant and fertilize and spray pesticides. >> suarez: once harvest season comes, her entire family will come to work the field. last year they made just over 1,300 u.s. dollars for a family of six. >> our family depends on the field and the field depends on the tobacco. especially when there is no food and we need the money to buy food for the family. >> suarez: tobacco pays the highest return of any crop these yunan farm families can grow. it's sightal in another way.
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more than half the revenue for the provincial government paying for the services for more than 50 million people comes from the taxes on tobacco. although the government tobacco company declined an interview, china's government often cites the jobs and services tobacco revenues provide as a reason to continue production. but for smokers, there's a heavy price to pay. how has this sickness changed your life? >> i walk much slower than other people. i cannot take stairs to get up to my apartment. i will get too out of breath. i cannot do any physical labor and the doctor says i've lost my ability to work. >> suarez: he is just 52 and has no disability insurance. a former machine operator at a government-owned factory, he and his wife are now supported by their daughter. >> most people don't have health insurance. most of the costs of getting ill aren't born by the government.
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they're born by individuals. 87% of medical expenses in china are born by individuals. so it's not really a big cost to government. i think that's partly perhaps why parts of government have dragged their feet on this. >> suarez: anti-smoking advocates say china has yet to hit peak mortality rates for tobacco-related deaths projecting by 2020 two million chinese will die annually from using tobacco. >> ifill: tomorrow ray reports >> ifill: tomorrow ray reports on another major health problem in modern china: obesity. >> warner: finally, on this memorial day, an encore conversation about a vietnam war novel that has stood the test of time. jeffrey brown recently talked with author tim o'brien. >> brown: what makes a war story ring true and what makes one last? the things they carried a work of fiction about the experience of a group of soldiers in the vietnam war
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was published in 1990. 20 years later it sold more than two million copies and appears on numerous high school and college reading lists. one of the rare works of recent literature that has helped define vietnam and the experience of war. marking the anniversary, author tim o'brien is out talking to students and others including this recent web cast conversation shot at a washington wash d.c. high school. o'brien himself served in vietnam and has written a memoir of that time as well as six other novels. welcome. >> thanks for having me on. >> brown: i saw talking with the students. you talked about using fiction as a way to get at the truth of war. >> yeah. for me the way to approach a subject such as vietnam is through story telling. it's one thing to watch a newscast or read a newspaper or a magazine article where things are fairly abstract. in fact , it has a glazing abstraction to it that
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conjures up bombs and bullets and so on. my goal to try to so much as i can capture the heart and the stomach and the back of the throat of readers who can lie in bed at night and participate in a story. i have a book i enjoy. i'm partly in the book. not just observing it. >> brown: it's interesting in this case because it's almost like you wrote it in the form of a memoir in some sense. >> i did. >> brown: there's a character being tim o'brien who is serving and then is later a writer. >> yes. that was part of my, i suppose, my strategy in writing this book. i wanted to write a work of fiction that would feel to the readers as if this is... has occurred or in a way is occurring as it read it. so i would use every strategy i could think of. invention and dialogue and using my own name. dedicating the book to the characters. as a way of giving our reader a sense of witnessed experience.
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i was a soldier in vietnam but the stories in the book are for the most part invented. yet they're launched out of a world i once knew. >> brown: are you surprised at the book's continued popularity? >> i am. >> brown: what explains it, do you think? >> well, i am surprised. i had set out to write a book for people who were, you know, over 25. certainly wasn't aiming at a high school or a collegiate audience. something about the title may explain part of it. the things they carried is really meant to go beyond war and you could write a book about all the things they carried about your life or the life of a mortician or a housewife or a stockbroker. >> brown: just to explain to people who haven't read it, it begins with literally the things thaer carrying in their pockets on their back and somehow those things are more than just the things in a sense, the stuff. >> yeah. the things we carry, the objects we carry say things about the sorts of people we
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are. so the book does start with the physical stuff we carry through a war. not just military stuff but the rabbit's feet and the pictures of your girlfriend back home and all you don't have. and then the book tries to move into the emotional and the spiritual burdens that you're going to carry not just through the war but to your grave. >> brown: you said that you thought of an audience older. >> i did. >> brown: older than 25 perhaps. yet i watched wu those high school students today and you said at the end that these were the people that you really wanted to address. >> they are. >> brown: 20 years later what is it that you hope that they and others take from the book? >> to move beyond platitude, to move beyond the mythology we carry about ourselves and our country. to move beyond sort. notion, i suppose, that
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through physical violence we're going to... we can always accomplish what we want. sometimes things like wars can do precisely the reverse of what you want. with a policy you can manufacture enemies as i was telling the class. a bullet can kill the enemy but a bullet can produce an enemy. if it strikes a little boy, you have a very angry mom and dad. and a bunch of neighbors who aren't happy. that isn't to say i'm arguing against all war. well, it is to say that i think that young people in particular need to understand the complications and the ambiguities of these things and to hear it from someone who has not only gone to a war but devoted a lifetime to suffering from it. >> brown: all right. the things they carried. 20 years later. tim o'brien. thanks for talking with us. >> great pleasure. thanks.
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>> ifill: again, the major developments of the day. israel faced worldwide protests after it raided ships trying to get aid to gaza. nine people were killed. and b.p. began work on a new effort to contain the oil gushing from the seabed in the gulf of mexico. the newshour is always online. hari sreenivasan, in our newsroom, previews what's there. hari? >> sreenivasan: there's more of jeff's interview with tim o'brien, including a reading from "the things they carried." find that on art beat. ray suarez reflects on his reporting trip to china and the country's complex ties to the tobacco industry. plus, find a story on the potential for an increase in female smokers worldwide. and a reminder, you can visit our web site to watch bp's live video feed of the oil leak, and use our gulf spill tracker to explore estimates on the size of the spill. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org.
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>> warner: finally, on this memorial day, we honor the american service personnel killed in the iraq and afghanistan conflicts. by all accounts, the american military death toll in afghanistan has now passed 1,000, after nearly nine years of combat there. and even as u.s. troops are drawing down in iraq, there are still combat fatalities in that country. the most recent occurred last week. those deaths are added to our honor roll as they are made official and photographs become available. here, in silence, are 20 more.
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>> and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm margaret warner.
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>> and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you on-line, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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